Using a 4X2 True Matrix HDMI 1.3a Powered Switch w/ Remote (Rev. 3.0)

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A while back I purchased a 4X2 True Matrix HDMI 1.3a Powered Switch w/ Remote (Rev. 3.0) from Monoprice.com and it’s proven to be a good investment. This switch has four inputs and two outputs. One of the features I’ve enjoyed is the ability to mix and match the inputs and outputs in any way.

For example, I can have the same source go to both TVs or any one of the sources go to different TVs at the same time. The switch has only three buttons on the front. A power button and then two output selectors. Each button press of an output selector (A or B) alternates between one of the four inputs.

It also comes with a very easy to use IR remote for changing the input/output combination. Since we use an IR repeater to control multiple devices from two rooms I went ahead and purchased a spare remote from Monoprice.

In general, the HDMI switch is a solid product but it’s not without its hiccups. There have been a few times when I had to reset the HDMI switch, but so far those events have been very rare, especially when compared to my first, single output HDMI switch. The rare problem I ran into was a very distorted display and perhaps once or twice I wasn’t able to receive audio until I reset the switch. Of the few times I’ve had issues I think I only had to physically unplug the power from the device just one time. Hopefully, problems will remain few.

Before I bought this switch I had an issue with my Philips 32″ LCD HDTV, typically when used with the PS3. It had a tendency to drop the HDCP signal, which is a problem with an DRM content such as video-on-demand. For a while I put an unused 2×1 HDMI splitter in line to boost the signal and that worked. Since I put the new 4×2 in line I haven’t had to use the other switch – it also seems to do a good job of boosting the signal.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the switch, especially when considering that the cost is lower than many other high-end HDMI switches that provide these capabilities.

Updated 08/28/2011: In June of 2011 one of the output ports on the switch died. I purchased a 4×1 switch for temporary use but that didn’t work out. Instead, I went ahead and bought another 4×2 switch (same model). Last week I mailed the defective switch back to Monoprice for replacement.

Using a Terk HDTVO Antenna

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We recently dropped DirecTV and switched to using various VOD services along with a Tivo and a Terk HDTVO. Previously, I had an indoor Terk antenna, which was a step up from the flat RCA indoor antenna we had. The Terk HDTVO performs a bit better.

Part of our problem is that we live almost 40 miles from the nearest broadcast towers (in any direction).

I had tried using the Terk in the attic but it couldn’t reliably pickup more than two of the four stations that we would prefer to have. There are several more stations that larger antennas could pickup (and under the proper conditions the Terk is capable of bringing in more stations from time-to-time.).

This weekend I moved the Terk from the attic down to the pole where the DirecTV dish was installed. Granted, it’s only a few feet off the ground so the position isn’t ideal but at this time I consider it better than sticking it off the side of the house. I was able to use the existing RG6, and assuming the dish was properly installed, then the cable is already grounded, as required.

Reception has improved and most channels that we are able to receive have few drop-outs. The “mast” was obviously cobbled together and at some point I may paint the wood gray to make it blend in better. This location may not be its final mount but for now it will work.

IR Repeater and Mixing and Matching HDMI Sources for Multiple TVs

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I summarized all of my issues with sending HDMI signals to two different TVs from multiple sources and getting the DirecTV remote working. The page includes my latest solution, which also provides the ability to control all connected devices from either room.

Read: Sending (and Controlling) Multiple HDMI Sources to Two TVs in Different Locations

Preparing to Eliminate Satellite TV

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I’ve tired of the cost of our satellite TV. Initially, it was already expensive with rebates but now that the rebates have expired the cost is just too high to accept. Sure, I could reduce the cost with a lower plan and drop HBO, Showtime, and Starz but then I wouldn’t have much reason to keep satellite. Most of the channels I don’t want are included in all of the plans and each plan drop eliminates channels I do want.

Granted, this move will eliminate the availability of shows we do like but the cost will be more reasonable and we’ll still have a good selection of variety.

Near the end of the month I’ll cancel service. We’ll pay an early termination fee since our 24 month contract isn’t up until September but it should be around $120 or less. That’s a lot of money but it’s about five times less than what we’ll pay over the next few months.

The plan is to have the following in place (all of which are here or have been ordered):

Tivo (~$80 for hardware, $20/month)
Netflix (~$11/month)
Hulu (~$8/month)
Terk HDTVO Amplified HDTV Antenna (~$75)

Overall our bill for services will be under $40/month, which leaves plenty of room for VOD rentals from iTunes, Amazon Prime, and whatever else our various devices support.

The HDMI switch I bought recently is still working great. Part of the two room entertainment plan involves an IR repeater that I also purchased. In the near future I’ll have all of our TV/video systems located in the living room but watchable from there or the bedroom.

Updated 11/12/2011: It’s been about six months since we got rid of satellite TV. Though we’ve considered signing up with Dish Network we’ve decided to keep doing what we’re doing, at least for now. The only reason we’ve considered going back to pay TV is to have access to new episodes of select HBO, Showtime and Stars series. But that’s also a good reason to not go back – this is probably the main reason those networks don’t allow digital distribution of such shows in a timely manner (for example, some are waiting a year before allowing iTunes to carry newer episodes). It’s a deliberate attempt to try to encourage people to not do exactly what we’ve done. But I think we’ll stick with things as they are.

I never had any billing issues with DirecTV since cancelling. However, they continue to send me junk mail and make cold calls from time-to-time, which is very annoying and certainly won’t encourage us to ever go back to them.

We can wait for the good shows to be distributed via other means. As it is, we do have plenty of great shows and movies to watch via local over-the-air channels, Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes.

The moment of joy – packaging the DirecTV receiver for return.
I took several pictures for proof of the condition of the items, which I didn’t need to use.

DirecTV HR20 Receiver and RF Remote Issue (Simple Fix) – Part 3

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Updated 05/25/2011: Save yourself time, money, and frustration by checking out my latest solution.

Well, something seems to have worked. I’m down to three possibilities.

(1) Batteries were low

(2) HDMI to Ethernet Extenders were causing interference

(3) Antenna connection was loose.

I think I can rule out #3 since it still seems to be responding better than it has for a while. If it was the antenna connection then I would have seen the reliability change from time to time. I don’t think it was #1 because I had previously swapped out the batteries though I went ahead and changed them again just in case I happened to have a bad set on the last change. The other, and perhaps more likely possibility, is that the HDMI to ethernet extenders were causing RF interference. Since the extenders were sitting up next to the antenna this would have been a problem if they did generate RF interference. To eliminate this possibility I swapped out the short HDMI cable going from the extender to the DVR with a six foot HDMI cable.

At the moment it seems to be working fine. Of course, it may not after I’ve published this update.

Sending DirecTV to Two Televisions (Part 5)

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Updated 05/25/2011: Save yourself time, money, and frustration by checking out my latest solution.

I went back to Monoprice.com to update my review of the HDMI switch that I’m using and while glancing at the product page I saw this:

Note: With most models of Televisions both displays will need to be powered on for the splitter to function properly.

I don’t know if that note was present before I bought the switch but basically it means the problems with it dropping the signal are expected unless both TVs are left on. As a result, this means I’d need to get a different splitter to get around this problem.

I’ve spent enough money over the past couple of months on this project. Perhaps in the near future I’ll follow-up with a new purchase but at this point I’m resigned to just swapping the HDMI cables for the bedroom and living room TVs directly in the DirecTV HDMI output. It isn’t as convenient but it should work.

Update: I’ve changed the connections. I’ve seen two very brief drops but both times it picked up again without having to do anything.

Sending DirecTV to Two Televisions (Part 4)

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Updated 05/25/2011: Save yourself time, money, and frustration by checking out my latest solution.

I decided to replace the Monoprice HDMI/Ethernet extenders in an attempt to resolve the signal issues with the TV in the bedroom. I replaced those adapters with a Sabrent HDMI Extension cable over Cat5/6 RJ45 Extender adapter. It is an improvement but it hasn’t removed the problem. I did finally get a steady signal light on the switch and I was able to change channels several times without any problems but later tonight it dropped the signal a couple of times.

On the bright side, this eliminates one part of the problem (and I’ll have another use for the older adapters). At this point either I need to upgrade the Cat5 to Cat6 or get a better HDMI switch.

>> Continue to Part 5